Sunday, January 31, 2016

New Zealand 2016 Day 4. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

We woke up to a very crispy but sunny morning, perfect for our second tramp of the trip, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. We started walking in the wee hours of the morning (7:30 am, which according to Anna is uncivilized), heading for the pass between Mt. Tongariro (last active in 2012) to the north and Mt. Ngauruhoe (renamed Mt. Doom for the saga of Lord of the Rings) to the south. Farther to the south is Mt. Ruapehu, a glaciated and snow clad volcano that reminded me a lot of Iztaccihuatl in Mexico (come to think about it, Mt. Ngauruhoe looks a lot like Popocatepetl, although the Mexican volcanoes are much larger).

This is the most famous tramp in the north island, so we had to share it with about 2,000 other people, but if one concentrates on the spectacular views the throng of humanity shrinks into a small line of ants. It turns out many had left their cars on the other side of the range, and had been shuttled to our side, intent on doing the whole crossing. We, however, only did half, to the highest point of the crossing, and from there headed back. One would think that going down would be an easy task, but we realized that we had indeed walked a very long way, and that going down steep slopes is hard on the knees. We finally reached our trusty camper van, more tired than we would like to acknowledge, rescued a family who needed a jump, and headed toward the west coast. We figured we deserved a break (and desperately needed a hot shower), so after reaching the city of Wanganui checked ourselves into what ended being a luxury campground with endless hot water in the showers, swimming pool, and a beautiful view of the Whanganui River.

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